Nova Scotia plans to open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone aged 12 and older by the end of the week as the province works to speed up appointments for the second dose by two to four weeks.
In a news briefing Tuesday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang thanked everyone who helped make the vaccine rollout possible, including the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, and other health-care workers and community partners.
That announcement was made as the province reported 54 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Currently, appointments for the second dose of the vaccine are being booked 105 days after the first one.
Those who are due for their second dose soonest will be able to move their appointment up starting in early June. It said notices will continue over the following weeks in the same order as first dose appointments.
“For example, someone who received the first dose of vaccine on March 22 would be due for the second dose 105 days later, on July 5,” said a news release from the province. “That person will be able to reschedule the second appointment for as early as the week of June 20.”
Notices will be sent by email to the account provided at the time of booking. Those who did not provide an email are asked to call 1-833-797-7772 to add an email address.
The province expects it can achieve population immunity, or 85 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated, in early September, rather than the end of October as originally expected.
As of May 24, more than 48 per cent of Nova Scotians have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone aged 20 and older is now eligible to book an appointment.
Strang said vaccine coverage rates are over 90 per cent in older and middle-aged groups, and younger Nova Scotians are “quickly catching up.”
“As we open up appointments for younger age groups, it’s remarkable how quickly they’re filling up,” he said.
“So thank you to everybody who has answered the call to come forward, do what it takes to protect ourselves, our families, our communities by getting vaccinated.”
The province is still pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as it awaits more guidance on mixing vaccines for those who received it as a first dose. Studies are expected in early June.
“As soon as we have that answer, we’ll then give people the opportunity to book your appointment, with fully updated informed consent on that,” said Strang.
The province has already given out 58,116 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and has around 2,000 doses in storage that will expire at the end of June.
Nova Scotians who received that vaccine are due for a second dose beginning July 5.
However, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said it is safe to mix mRNA vaccines — the Pfizer and Moderna ones — and Strang said they may have to do that given the “current uncertainty” of the province’s Moderna supply.
“So if you got a Moderna vaccine for your first dose, it’s quite likely you’ll be getting a Pfizer vaccine for your second dose, and that’s perfectly OK,” he said.
He said the Moderna supply is “unpredictable” and all of the anticipated changes are based on the “stable” supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
More options for accessibility
Strang also said the province is adding another drive-thru vaccination option in Wolfville at the end of the month. There are currently drive-thru options in Dartmouth and Truro.
“Those are great options for anyone with mobility issues, or children or adults with sensory issues that make it difficult for them to come into a clinic setting,” he said.
The province is also launching a program to vaccinate those unable to leave their homes without “significant assistance.”
The initial rollout in June will target those receiving home care or home oxygen, as well as those waiting for long-term care who require a high level of support.
It will later be expanded to include more people.
“As we’ve done with all our delivery models, we will try it, we will learn and adjust,” he said.
54 new cases
Of the 54 new cases of COVID-19 announced Tuesday, 35 are in the central health zone, 15 are in the eastern health zone, three are in the northern health zone and one is in the western health zone.
Since Monday, 102 people have recovered from COVID-19, leaving an active case count of 856.
“We are seeing encouraging signs showing promise that we are crushing this wave faster than other provinces have been able to,” said Premier Iain Rankin, thanking Nova Scotians for “sacrificing” the first long weekend of the summer.
“It’s hard not to socialize or gather but necessary to get us to a better place that we all want to be.”
There are currently 72 people in hospital, including 20 in intensive care.
Nova Scotia Health labs completed 3,973 tests on Monday.View link »